Hundreds of Africans and Asians armed with knives and iron rods fought running street battles in the northern port city of Calais on February 1, less than two weeks after French President Emmanuel Macron visited the area and pledged to crack down on illegal immigration.
The clashes plunged Calais — emblematic of Europe’s failure to control mass migration — into a war zone and reinforced the perception that French authorities have lost control of the country’s security situation.
The mass brawls, fought in at least three different parts of Calais, erupted after a 37-year-old Afghan migrant running a human trafficking operation fired gunshots at a group of Africans who did not have money to pay for his services. Five Africans suffered life-threatening injuries.
Within an hour, hundreds of Eritreans, Ethiopians and Sudanese took to the streets of Calais and attacked any Afghans they could find. More than a thousand police officers using batons and tear gas were deployed to restore order. Two dozen migrants were hospitalized.
French Interior Minister Gérard Collomb described the level of violence in Calais as “unprecedented.” He attributed the fighting to an escalating turf war between Afghan and Kurdish gangs seeking to gain control over human trafficking between Calais and Britain, which many migrants view as “El Dorado” because of its massive underground economy. Each day around 40 ferries depart Calais for Britain.